Quilters honor veterans with patchwork keepsakes in Merced

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 17, 2014 

A quilting group used Monday, a holiday to honor presidents, to say thank you to World War II veterans in Merced.

The Gateway Quilters Guild of Merced handed out 18 quilts to men and women who served and now live in The Hampshire retirement community. The Merced Elks Veterans Committee and members of Veterans of Foreign War posts in Atwater and Winton took part in the effort.

Bob Smith, 87, served in the Navy in World War II and again in the Korean War. Smith spent all his time on land working for the commander in chief of the Pacific Ocean and the commander in chief of the Atlantic Ocean.

Smith said he was happy to receive the gift. “I think it’s very nice,” the Pennsylvania native said.

“I think it’s a nice gesture. It’s great they’re sending them to other people that really need it,” Smith said, referring to the guild’s Quilter’s Embrace program, which gives quilts to sick children or families who have lost homes in disasters. The program provided the patchwork keepsakes to veterans Monday.

The Quilter’s Embrace is about a decade old, according to members Dale and Virginia Wagner, but 2013 was its first year serving veterans in the Merced area. Before that, the group primarily honored servicemen and servicewomen around Christmas at Fresno’s veterans hospital.

Dale Wagner said he thought Monday’s holiday was a fitting day to honor those who served. The group wants to recognize and appreciate the veterans before they are gone, he said.

Each quilt has a poem stitched on the back that says, “I don’t know your name nor the mountains you face, but what you hold in your arms is a quilter’s embrace.”

Navy veteran Mel Tormey, 92, sat with his new quilt folded across his lap and listened to speakers at the short ceremony Monday. Tormey, originally from Michigan, said he flew the F4U Corsair during his time of service.

He said he appreciates the gesture. “It means a lot, it’s very sentimental,” he said. “It’s going to keep me warm.”

Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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